The 19th amendment was passed in the U.S. Constitution on August 26, 1920, granting some women the right to vote. More than one hundred years later, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day to honor one of the first social milestones that chose to include women and recognized their ability to have a voice.
The inequalities in the workforce we see today mirror similar sentiments the Suffragettes battled for decades. In a disparagingly male industry, women in tech face unique challenges, among them: the wage gap, a lack of female role models, hiring biases, and lower projected job retention than their male counterparts.
We sat down with female leaders in the tech industry to get their take on fighting discrimination, balancing demands of life and work, and how to encourage more women into these spaces.
Gina O’Reilly, COO, Nitro
“The pandemic has undeniably had a huge impact on women in the workforce. According to data from McKinsey, one in four women are considering leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers versus one in five men as a result. On top of that, more women than men reported feeling exhausted, burnt out and under pressure at work, particularly as most women lead the charge on the “juggle struggle” between work and home life demands.
“On this Women’s Equality Day, it’s important to not only commemorate women’s contributions to history and society but also to keep vocalizing and pushing for more equitable and supportive workplaces — especially during these challenging times.
“We must all play our part in providing women with the resources they need to thrive, grow and feel confident staying in the workforce. Diversity of thought and contribution can go a long way toward creating a more productive, collaborative and inclusive work environment, which in turn, leads to increased happiness and retention, not to mention healthier bottom lines for companies. Mentorship can also have a significant impact — and it doesn’t have to be limited to women executives. I’ve witnessed great outcomes when male leaders also understand the importance of diversity and take an active role in the growth and mentorship of female colleagues.
“Working during a global pandemic hasn’t been easy, especially for women. As employers, we all need to make a better effort to help women feel more included and supported, and that will take thinking more creatively and doing things differently to establish new ways to ensure flexibility and empathy are at the forefront of every work environment.”
Sandy Mahla, district sales manager, Datadobi
“Women’s Equality Day should serve as an acknowledgment of the progress made for women in the technology industry and beyond, but also reminds us to continue the momentum. Women and men are more similar than dissimilar, but there are still common cultural practices at home and in the workplace that keep the two separate.
“It is disheartening to see young girls that excel in math and science decide not to pursue a profession in technology because of fear and lack of encouragement. We cannot wait until they get to age to enter the workforce to provide support, we must take action when they are young.
“Having female and male role models allowed me to be confident throughout my career. Understanding how women get work done in the field, how they handle complex situations, and how they get around barriers, is a wonderful learning experience. Likewise, I encourage women in tech to make themselves available to new team members. Strong female leaders from school age and beyond help level the gender playing field overall, and lead us to a more balanced workplace.
“I am grateful to be a part of a company culture that values diversity and allows women to be creative and expand their capabilities. We as women have to choose organizations and leaders that support balance. Moreover, we need to learn to be confident in our abilities and know when to say no. We all make mistakes, but we learn from them and advance.”
Jesse Kinser, CISO, Pathwire
“On this year’s Women’s Equality Day, I want to encourage anyone with an ambition to be in tech or pursue a career in cybersecurity, to just go for it. Oftentimes it’s easy to get stuck in a negative mindset where we doubt our abilities. Jump in and set both large and small goals, where the small goals act as stepping stones to your larger ambitions. Failure doesn’t really exist in tech, it’s just in our heads. We are all here to learn and build on each other’s knowledge and you will help make this space even brighter.
“Overall, encouraging women to get into the tech industry is about inspiring and connecting with them. When organizations seek to provide a wide variety of minds with the right training and opportunities, they will organically increase the talent pool and attract a diverse group of candidates. Company leaders must remember that it is continuous work to fight gender disparity in technology. We can always do better to diversify our organizations, and it should not be just another box to check.”
Kate Bachman, director of partner communications, ConnectWise
“Women’s Equality Day makes me think about the paths that have been laid, the ones we’re fighting for, and the battles that we won’t be able to finish. The right to vote, the CEO position, equal pay, body autonomy, the presidency – there are a million and one fights we’ve had, and have to have on the long, splintered road to equality. Each battle won is another brick laid down for future generations to walk further, so that humanity can evolve. I worry that we are not advancing that road fast enough. I know brilliant, talented and wonderful women who have pushed throughout their careers and I see them consistently held to higher standards, only to be paid less. Being expected to perform better and more consistently, yet not have the title. To be shamed for showing up as a whole person and not this ‘ideal employee’ made in the image of a 1950s white collar, middle class male. Yes, this day is about celebrating how far we have come, but it should also be a day that we remember with fury that there are more battles to win so that those who we mentor, those who we raise don’t have to have the same fights we have today.”
Diane Albano, CRO, Globalization Partners
“In the technology industry, Women’s Equality Day is an important opportunity to focus on the development barriers many women still face throughout their careers. In doing so, there are some values and proven pieces of advice to consider. The first is the importance of mentorship. The short and long term challenges of professional life are almost always easier to address when women have a mentor to turn to. Similarly, women that can become mentors are vital to help offer invaluable guidance to others as their careers develop. The IT industry needs many more of them.
“Secondly, women should be encouraged to choose a career path that suits their skillset, interests, and passions. In many cases, this can mean pursuing roles that are still male dominated, but breaking traditional barriers needs female trailblazers to follow their ambitions with an assertive, confident, and vocal attitude.
“Finally, in building a career pathway, women should feel confident in challenging situations or cultural norms that seem wrong or unreasonable. Why? Because the pursuit of a fair and equitable working environment is always a challenge worth undertaking.”
Annemie Vanoosterhout, release and project manager, Datadobi
“In the spirit of Women’s Equality Day, I believe both women and men must challenge organizations to make room for people of all genders, races, and backgrounds. At this unique time, employers have the opportunity to leverage hybrid work. Adding flexible work from home hours can benefit women who are balancing their job responsibilities with family life. If businesses implement this understanding into their hiring practice, we could advance opportunities for women to work in the male-dominated tech industry.
“As women, we must challenge ourselves to move beyond what we think (or what others think) we can do. In my career, I specifically remember two occasions when my supervisor didn’t see me as a good fit to rise to the next level, and I was passed over for other candidates. Despite the obstacles I face as a woman in the tech industry, I used these times as opportunities to work with my new manager to contribute and excel in the space in which I persisted. Not being accepted right away doesn’t mean you can’t push the boundaries and show people what you are capable of. You just sometimes have to accept that people aren’t caught up with you yet.”
Kate Nowrouzi, VP, deliverability & product strategy, Pathwire
“Two buzzwords often used in the workplace by women in leadership positions are ‘lean in’ and ‘work-life balance.’ On this year’s Women’s Equality Day, I would like to emphasize that these terms set women in technology up for failure. In an industry plagued by gender disparities, it is not always enough or easy to ‘lean in’ or achieve ‘work-life balance’ for women. Unfortunately, both terms imply that if a woman works hard enough and asserts herself just the right amount, she can thrive at home and at work. What both of these terms fail to account for is the fact that succeeding is not solely the responsibility of individual women and completely disregards the barriers that societal structures can place around them. During this holiday, I urge the industry to rewrite this narrative. In order for a technology organization to be successful, we need to foster an environment where women feel listened to and are encouraged to participate, while also feeling that they have a team of people to support them.”
Krishna Desai, marketing communications manager, Cubic
“On this Women’s Equality Day, we must highlight the progress we have made as a society while acknowledging the work that still needs to be done in order to build a more inclusive world. Though there are more working women than ever before, the gender pay gap remains a key issue. I’m proud to work for a company that has been actively reducing the gap, with our 2020 report showing the pay gap closing from 6.97% to 0.67% in Europe. Along with closing the gender pay gap, Cubic also plans to have 30% of its workforce be women by 2025. We plan to achieve that goal by retaining our current female staff by providing mentorship, career advancements and a safe environment to work, as well as looking for new hires externally. In the UK, we have partnered with the STEM returners programme to assist hiring managers with picking the best female talent. I look forward to seeing how we can continue to drive equality in the transportation technology industry in the coming years.”
Chyna Serraino, senior product director, devices, Cubic
“Years ago, when I thought of women’s equality, I would think back to the first time I stepped into a voting centre and cast my vote alongside my male peers. Today, equality means something different to me. Each day, when I power on my computer and join my teams in discussions regarding innovation and the future of technology, I am reminded of how lucky I am to be a woman in a leadership position in the transportation technology industry. Through years of hard work and immersion into the space, I have learned to appreciate each step I have made as a female in the industry.
“At Cubic, I am fortunate to be surrounded by female leaders whose expertise radiates both internally and throughout our industry. Still, while women are making great progress breaking into and leading STEM industries, the last 18 months of COVID-19 have impacted working women, and especially working mothers, the most. Supporting women in technology and leadership starts with bringing women, who lost their employment with COVID-19 back into the workforce with equal pay to their male peers. This equity will foster growth and bring women back to the forefront of science, technology, engineering, and math. I look to our industry leaders to encourage women to enter or re-enter into the STEM workforce and to pave the way for our future generation of female leaders.”
Julie Giannini, chief customer officer, Egnyte
“On Women’s Equality Day, we celebrate women gaining the right to vote but we can’t lose sight of the fact that gender inequality still exists today. Women in leadership remain underrepresented and gender biases are prevalent across all industries.
“Today, only 27% of Congress, which represents 100% of our country, is women. The number falls even lower when you look at the highest levels of the corporate world where only 8% of Fortune 500 CEOs are female. While these statistics are better than they used to be, there is still a lot of work to do to ensure women have an equal voice on issues that pertain to our families, country, and economy. With equal representation in leadership roles, countries become stronger and companies thrive. Achieving equality will leave a lasting impact on the next generation.”
Sherry Lowe, CMO, Exabeam
“This Women’s Equality Day, it is critical that as leaders, we remember that attracting capable people requires a commitment to showing them that they have a valuable seat at the table. It’s human nature to want to see someone who looks like us, someone we admire, in a role that we hope to be in ourselves one day. So by diversifying who we see in leadership positions and on corporate boards, we’re not just creating diversity as a lip service. We’re letting women and minorities know that there is opportunity for all.
“Several new initiatives, including work by the SEC and Nasdaq to require diversity on boards, have emerged recently. Namely, The Black Boardroom Initiative, which helps pair candidates with companies seeking directors, and an organization —with which I am proud to be involved personally—FirstBoard.io. This curated group of accomplished female executives in technology is working together to increase the representation of women on boards and at the highest level of corporate governance and management.
“These programs aren’t just virtuous; they’re helping meet the increased legal requirements for diversity on public boards as showcased in the newly approved Nasdaq plan. It’s exciting that numerous institutions are finally taking notice of the benefits of the unique insight and expertise different types of people can bring to the executive team and board room. I predict this is just the start of something great, and the technology industry must band together to move this already amazing progress forward at an even more rapid pace.”
Svenja de Vos, CTO, Leaseweb Global
“Successful organizations are built on a diverse workforce. In today’s competitive technology landscape, it has been proven that companies that lead in gender diversity also lead in performance and profitability. In order to create products and services that break the mold, we need leaders who come from different backgrounds and life experiences.
“I truly believe a key reason for the low number of women in technology can be attributed to a lack of role models and mentors; there simply aren’t enough. Despite women holding more leadership roles in tech than ever, there still is vast room for improvement. Applying to work in a male-dominated industry can be intimidating, but it needs to be done to bring change. We need to break the unconscious bias that women are not suited to be tech leaders by providing examples that they can be.
Women’s Equality Day reminds us to celebrate the women that broke barriers in the industry and across the world, and of the work, we as an industry, still have left to do. As our world becomes increasingly defined by tech, we need to create and elevate more female role models who can open the way for young girls to follow in their footsteps.”
Samina Subedar, vice president of marketing, StorCentric
“Each year on August 26, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day which commemorates the 1920 adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex. It is a day that is particularly important to me for two reasons. The first is that it serves as a reminder to reflect upon and appreciate all those that supported my career goals in marketing and technology. The second reason is that it reminds me that I should do the same, and support others that wish to excel in their chosen professions.
“On August 26, and all year long, we can do our part in a variety of ways. To start, support the wonderful teachers that are extending hands-on STEM learning opportunities to all and cultivating an environment of gender equality. In addition, actively advocate for educational programs that show real world examples of successful women in technology, which can in turn provide inspiring role models. Next, champion female-based internships and hiring at your organization (not just the right thing to do, diversity optimizes business processes and creates competitive advantage for your company). And, are you a woman in technology or marketing? Then, please consider acting as a mentor. There are numerous organizations around the world focused on such mutually rewarding opportunities.”
Ali Knapp, president, Wisetail
“The first Women’s Equality Day was celebrated 50 years ago, but still all these years later women still face challenges everyday. It’s common knowledge that women are still outnumbered in the technology industry, but what’s more cause for concern is that the gender pay gap is still an issue. Just last year, women made $0.81 for every dollar made by a man.
“As any business leader can attest to, there are many things that you just can’t control. At Wisetail, we place our focus on the things we can, which has helped us create an environment to develop motivated talent. With this approach, we’ve been able to grow our workforce to a nearly 50/50 ratio. We didn’t get there with hiring mandates or gender-focused goals in mind but rather by putting an emphasis on looking for the most qualified and hardest working people we could find. The most important quality we look for in new hires is the ability to help us evolve and grow as a company rather than focusing on physical characteristics.
“This Women’s Equality Day, I encourage all business leaders to step out of their comfort zone and tackle difficult conversations head on. Don’t shy away from the uncomfortable realities of human existence; instead use those conversations to help you discover the best candidates for your team. You’ll see that this approach will naturally create a more diverse and successful company.”
Nicola Kinsella, VP of global marketing, Fluent Commerce
“Equality. The definition is clear: equality is “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights and opportunities”. Women have faced inequality for years and the gender gap, especially in technology companies, is still present today even as great strides have been made over the past few decades. We cannot leave the gender gap issue to others: it is up to women to empower, encourage and build up other women in the industry. Opportunities are not one-size-fits-all, nor should they be. As you navigate throughout life, do not let others dissuade you from your passions or ideas. Women did not get where we are today by following the status-quo. We took the reins and created our own path, and will continue to do so until equality is truly achieved.
“Finding a supportive, inclusive organization is not easy, but they do exist. Here at Fluent commerce, we support, and continue to support, a diverse team and an open, inclusive working environment.
“Remember to be champions for each other. Be the change you want to see. It is up to us to empower the next generation of women in all industries to pursue their dreams and demand equality. Today, on Women’s Equality Day—and everyday—I encourage all women to speak their minds, continue to seek new experiences, learning opportunities and adventures, and advocate for other women in your lives—both professionally and personally.“
Caroline Seymour, VP of product marketing, Zerto
“On the 50th anniversary of Women’s Equality Day, we celebrate not only that women secured the right to vote in the U.S. but also the demand that women be given all the opportunities afforded to men. While there is still a long way to go, and I find it sad that we have to keep having these conversations, we’ve made progress because generations of women have been willing to ignore roadblocks and break down barriers wherever they exist. If we keep supporting young women and encouraging strength in the face of adversity, we will continue to make progress.
“However, in the tech industry, women still struggle with significant underrepresentation. There are numerous positions that need to be filled, so why aren’t they being filled with qualified women? It’s been proven that diverse teams boost performance and bring fresh ideas to the table. If companies are striving for innovation and growth, then progressive hiring is the way to accomplish those goals.
“However, making a commitment to diverse teams isn’t enough. It’s important to address pay inequality. Women make nearly 20% less than men and aren’t expected to reach pay equity until 2059. That’s unacceptable, and it highlights that simply hiring women is not enough. Employers need to appreciate women’s contribution to the workforce and put their money where their mouth is. When that happens, the rewards are substantial.
“While Women’s Equality Day is a chance to speak on the challenges females continue to face, it must be an ongoing conversation that happens daily. We want more women to pursue a career in the tech industry and having these conversations will help. So for those considering it, I say, go for it. Move forward confidently and pursue it wholeheartedly. Even the most qualified person will walk into their job and make a mistake, and the reality is that mistakes help you learn and grow and are instrumental to success. We all make them, so don’t let that stop you. Pursuing a career in tech as a woman can be tough at times, but it’s very rewarding.”
Michelle Fitzgerald, director of demand gen & events, Plutora
“While Women’s Equality Day was initially established as a day to celebrate women gaining the right to vote, it also serves as a reminder that, although we have made big advancements, providing equal and accessible opportunities to women is still a work in progress. This is not only a day of reflection but also an opportunity to celebrate and uplift other women.
“My hope for other women in tech is to not only take an active role in your own career but also focus on connecting and building relationships with other women. Building connections, seeking out a mentor or becoming a mentor yourself are all rewarding ways to continue to grow, learn and lead. We can all benefit from building relationships that challenge us and help us to thrive personally and professionally.
“Since becoming a mother in addition to a working professional, the support of family, friends and colleagues has been instrumental in my success in the workplace. In order to progress and really drive forward issues related to women’s equality, we also have to keep ourselves whole. That means different things to different people; for me it’s maintaining a good work-life balance. With two demanding kids myself, I’ve found that setting clear boundaries between work, family and personal time have allowed me to minimize stress and maximize productivity.
“At the end of the day, Women’s Equality Day is about uplifting each other and making sure all women have the tools and opportunities to succeed. Trust your intuition, seek out the resources you need and find the connections that drive you forward.”